The Golden State Warriors have defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder in game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, 118-91. Following a surprising Thunder win in game 1 on the road and a close game in the 1st half, the Warriors responded in champion level resolve by cooking OKC in the 2nd half, 61-42. The Warriors were led by Stephen Curry, who finished with 28 points on 9-15 shooting. The Thunder were led by Kevin Durant, who finished with 29 points on 11-18 shooting, but he was once again plagued by turnovers, committing 8 on the night. Russell Westbrook finished with 16 points and 12 assists, but was ineffective for most of the game, shooting only 5-14 from the floor. The series is now tied at 1-1 and heads to OKC for game 3.
The final point margin is sobering, but the story of the game is simple. The Thunder are the underdogs in the series, and if they want to have a chance to win against a superior opponent, they must do well the things that they do well. Namely, OKC must get offensive production from Westbrook where he is getting points for himself and for others, and they have to win the rebounding battle. In this latter category, OKC utterly failed, losing 45-36 overall and a crippling 15-7 on the offensive glass, including 10 Warrior ORB's in the first half alone. It is this statistic that was most damaging, as OKC would likely have had a reasonable shot to go into the half ahead had they rebounded the Warriors misses better.
While the unspooling of the Thunder statistically occurred in the 3rd period where the Warriors outscored them 31-19, the turning point in the game came in the final minute of the 2nd quarter. Indeed, this is not the first time we've seen the Thunder make a strong push against a superior opponent in the 1st half, only to see all their work undone with carelessness, mental lapses, and poor shooting in the final seconds before the break. In game 2, the Thunder had briefly taken the lead off of a Dion Waiters 3-pointer with 2 minutes to play at 47-46. Despite a sloppy 1st half and as noted uncharacteristically bad rebounding, the Thunder had put themselves in contention with a steady focus and needed to close out the half on a positive note.
Instead, Kevin Durant fouled Andre Iguodala on a 3-point attempt, and the Warriors regained the lead. In the final minute of play, the Thunder turned the ball over, gave up an offensive rebound, missed a 4 foot shot in the lane, and saw Russell Westbrook take two comically bad 3-point shots. The net result was an 8-0 run by the Warriors to close the half and the Thunder's focus was shaken.
The Third quarter featured no rallying point by the Thunder, and instead we got to watch league MVP Stephen Curry lay down an offensive clinic, at one point recording 10 points in 47 seconds. In game 1, the Thunder were able to withstand these one-man runs by both Steph and Klay Thompson, but on this night, with their offense stagnating and their rebounding giving them no help, OKC watched as what was a late 1st half lead turn into a 20 point deficit in 13 minutes of play.
- Perhaps this would be a good time to recall game 1 vs the Spurs and what happened next.
- Russell Westbrook did a good job of distributing the ball, but if he's not scoring as well, OKC has no shot at winning a game against this team. If he isn't scoring, the defense can shift and adjust to take away his passing lanes.
- Durant needs to recognize that he can't put the ball on the floor against this defense. They're too smart, too quick. His offense needs to be either catch and shoot or 2 dribbles and an offensive move. It is particularly unfortunate because Durant's offensive rhythm returned in game 2 but he was undone by the unforced errors.
- Games like this underscore how mentally taxing it is to have to defend the Warriors for 48 minutes. While the score and the final shooting percentages won't show it, the Thunder defense once again was on point for about 2.5 quarters. The problems that they had were not necessarily defense-related, but once again careless turnovers and this time, bad defensive rebounding. The only way you can alleviate the mental strain on defense is by running a competent offense and not giving up 2nd chance points.
- Waiters really needs to develop a floater or a Chris Paul-like pull-up in the lane. He consistently gets down in there, but consistently has no good plan to finish.
- Marreese Speights. I just don't get it.
- The Warriors adjusted their offense to minimize Enes Kanter, and it had big effect as he only played 15 minutes. Kanter's contribution in the post and on rebounds are a big reason why OKC's system works. Unless Donovan can get something out of him in game 3, the bench's struggles are going to once again be a hindrance to winning.
Game 3 scheduled for Sunday, May 22nd at 7PM CDT